Sunday, April 7, 2013

El Professore Movie Reviews: The Gong Show Movie

Director: Chuck Barris
Starring: Chuck Barris, Robin Altman
* * 1/2
Oh Chuckie-baby, what the hell were you thinking? Apparently, Barris had career suicide on his mind when he wrote and directed this Gong Show behind-the-scenes vanity project which was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world in 1980, near the end of his beloved show's run. It signaled the end, alright...

Full review after the jump.

Filmed with a pervasive sense of "whoa is me" throughout, 'The Gong Show Movie' presents a week in the life of poor, miserable, rich and successful Chuck Barris. Despite his best efforts, it seems ol' Chuck can't escape the albatross that is his mega popular talent show spoof. Constantly approached/harassed by waves of strange people that want to be auditioned, Chuck spends most of his time moping in tremendous self-pity. Even after inadvertently causing one older contestant to suffer a heart attack ("I shouldn't have asked him to do that chicken dance one more time...") he is approached while visiting the man in a hospital by a typically over zealous fan who has an act that he just HAS to perform for him. Distraught, Barris ultimately escaped to the desert (!) where he is followed and confronted by his entire cast and crew (!!). A musical number follows...

This amazing (in oh-so many good and bad ways) film will to this day, confound any who see it. At the time, it was universally panned (so much so, that it was pulled from theaters just days after it's debut and has yet to surface on any sort of official home media). Shortly after, Barris sold the rights to his shows (Gong Show, Dating Game, etc.) for millions and moved to France to live in peaceful seclusion (sounds like a great idea to me; I just need to create something worth tens of millions of dollars, damnit!). Now, decades later and with much greater hindsight (Barris' memoir in which he claimed to be a hitman for the C.I.A. followed by George Clooney's annoyingly underdone 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind'), there is a sense that we (the collective fans) have been a part of a major decades long put-on.

So in retrospect (and speaking personally as a huge fan of both Chuck and The Gong Show), the question remains as to just what in God's name was 'The Gong Show Movie' supposed to be? Was it a semi-serious document of an ego spun wildly out of control or the biggest cinematic practical joke of all time? Well, I'll leave it to the great man himself to explain it (or not)...

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